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(Left to right) Chef Patrick Tanyag with Bun Papa owners Doug Abedie, Markos Panas and Noelle Rickey with their Rammy Award. (Courtesy photo)

Bun Papa talks a big game, and now they have a RAMMY to back it up.

On Sunday (July 24), thousands were in attendance recognizing the region’s culinary excellence at the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s annual RAMMY awards at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Bun Papa won the outstanding pop-up concept in the publicly voted category.

The Bun Papa pop-up is located in the Beeliner Diner at the Bradlee Shopping Center and Bread & Water Company in Belle View. Owners Markos Panas, Noelle Rickey, Doug Abedje and Chef Patrick Tanyag took the stage to receive the award.

“At Bun Papa we make the world’s best buns and we put the best stuff in it,” Panas told the audience.

A fried chicken sandwich with ranch dressing at Bun Papa. (Via Facebook)

The team opened their first pop-up last year at Bread & Water in the Belle View Shopping Center, and their second at the Capitol One Arena, followed by Beeliner earlier this year. Panas also wants to bring back another pop-up at the Capitol One Arena for hockey season this fall.

“People want the best buns in the world to salivate over, and eat their burgers, dogs and chicken sandwiches,” Panas told ALXnow. “People want nostalgic, delicious, fun desserts and they want they want it from people who make them feel special, who care, who are there putting out the best possible product they can. Bun Papa is a celebration of us, the community, food, our opportunity to move forward through Covid. It’s just been a ton of fun for all of us.”

Sandwich photo via Facebook

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Leatherworking at Best Foot Forward (image via Best Foot Forward/Facebook)

After twenty years in Pentagon Row, family-owned leatherworking shop Best Foot Forward is moving to the Bradlee Shopping Center in Alexandria early next month.

Victoria Lopez, operations manager at Best Foot Forward and daughter of the shop’s founder Wilfred Lopez, said they are planning on moving to the new Bradlee location sometime in early July.

“We’ve been at Pentagon Row for about twenty years now, ever since the shopping center opened,” Victoria said. “My dad started it as a one-man business. Now we’re looking to expand and Bradlee would be twice as big. That will give us more of a chance to find more services and present more retail stuff.”

Shoe repair businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic, but Victoria said Best Foot Forward has held out by pivoting to more generalized leather repair.

“Through COVID saw about 70% of all shoe repair shops die down,” Victoria said. “We had people come in and bring office shoes, but now they’re bringing different types of jobs.”

What was once mainly office shoes has grown to include more repairs to things like repairing sneakers or leather bags. The change wasn’t without precedent at the story, and Victoria said over the last twenty years the shop has worked on a wide array of unusual items.

“Throughout twenty years we’ve restored a lot of weird stuff,” Victoria said. “We had an elephant shoe for the National Zoo. We’ve done a knight’s helmet — the leather part inside.”

Victoria said Best Foot Forward will be moving in near the Fresh Market.

Image via Best Foot Forward/Facebook

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Updated at 3:30 p.m. — A 16-year-old Alexandria City High School student has been arrested in connection to last week’s fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez, Alexandria Police tweeted.

The juvenile, who was not named, was arrested more than a week after the May 24 incident, and has been charged with murder. He was arrested sometime Wednesday morning (June 1) and is being held at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center.

The full statement is below:

The Alexandria Police Department has made an arrest in connection to a stabbing incident, that occurred on May 24, 2022.

A 16-year-old juvenile male, a City of Alexandria resident, was arrested and charged with murder. The juvenile is currently being held in the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center.

The decedent Luis Hernandez, 18, was a City of Alexandria resident.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Hernandez was stabbed during a brawl between 30-to-50 students on Tuesday afternoon (May 24). Police have not disclosed what prompted the fight.

Friends of the victim say that police did not do enough to prevent Hernandez’s death, and police are not conducting an investigation to their response of the incident.

Alexandria City Public Schools went to asynchronous learning after the incident, and will continue with hybrid learning for the remainder of the week.

After the police released information on the incident, Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. sent out the following message:

Dear ACPS Staff and Families,

We want to share with you an update provided today by the Alexandria Police Department (APD) about the loss of Alexandria City High School (ACHS) student Luis Mejía Hernández. We have been in close contact with the APD and we appreciate your patience and understanding in communicating during an active police investigation, which we understand remains ongoing. Please see the June 1, 2022 APD press release regarding this case.

We want to again assure you that new security measures have been implemented and remain in place at ACHS and we have shared multiple communications with ACHS students and families, including the latest information from Executive Principal Peter Balas on logistics for this week for the Class of 2022 as well as students in grades 9-11.

Just a reminder that the schedule this week has changed with a modified return for ACHS students so we can focus on social, emotional and academic learning to help fulfill critical in-person graduation requirements, provide students with the social-emotional supports needed, and afford students with an opportunity for socialization with their peers. Also, the modified return permits students who prefer classroom time with teachers in person to complete their asynchronous assignments at ACHS.

On behalf of the whole Titan community, I would like to again express our condolences and support for the family of Luis Mejía Hernández. Our team will continue to support our students, staff and families.

Sincerely,

Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.

Superintendent

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(Updated 2:30 p.m.) Friends of Luis Mejia Hernandez say he didn’t have to die.

More than a dozen of the Alexandria City High School senior’s friends paid tribute to him on Thursday night (May 26) with a candlelight vigil at the spot in the Bradlee Center parking lot where he was fatally stabbed on Tuesday afternoon. Many of them witnessed the fight, and say that police didn’t do enough to prevent the death.

“Police were literally walking right behind everyone before people started throwing punches,” said one student, who produced videos and photos of the incident on his phone. “They literally let everything happen.”

The Latino students said that they did not trust the police, and had not yet shared the information with them. One video showed a steadily escalating scene with police officers walking around groups of students along King Street — before the incident occurred.

No police sirens were used before and immediately after the stabbing, and police struggled to break up the fight, according to video obtained by ALXnow. There were about 30-50 Alexandria City High School students involved and no arrests have been made in connection to the incident.

“The police was here before everything started,” another witness said. “They didn’t do anything. They didn’t shoot a gun, they didn’t do anything.”

Police say that they responded appropriately, and are not at fault in their response. Police are also not currently investigating their response to the incident.

At the vigil, some of the students smoked weed and drank tequila — with police in cruisers observing but not engaging from a short distance away. Many of Hernandez’s friends burst into tears while talking about him. Some even left small plastic cups with tequila on the ground next to prayer candles and flowers.

The students did not respond when asked about what prompted the brawl.

“Something is always happening here (in the shopping center),” another friend of Hernandez said. “There was three police cars here. Why didn’t they call more officers? The police station is right there. This was unfair, this could have been prevented, no problem. It didn’t even have to happen.”

A GoFundMe for Hernandez has raised more than $20,000. His friends say that next week his father will take his body home to El Salvador, where his mother lives.

“He was a senior, like me,” one girl said. “He was going to graduate. He so looking forward to getting out of school this summer.”

Some of the kids involved were getting milkshakes at the Beeliner Diner in the shopping center. Owner Noelie Rickey said she provided police with security footage from the day of the incident, and that teenagers drive away her customers during lunch and after school hours.

“Our business has been down all week,” Rickey told ALXnow. “Obviously people are hesitant to come to the shopping center right now… And customers have learned to stay away when the kids are out and not in school.”

Alexandria City High School sent students home after the incident and transitioned to virtual learning for the rest of the week.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. says that police are providing additional high-visibility patrols in school zones, and that there will be support team members available for students when school reopens on Tuesday after Memorial Day.

Hernandez’s death marks the city’s third homicide of 2022 after a murder in the Foxchase neighborhood and a teenager killed in an alleged attempted carjacking in Potomac Yard earlier this month.

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Police at the Bradlee Shopping Center, two days after the fatal stabbing in the parking lot on May 24, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

It’s been quiet at the Bradlee Shopping Center McDonald’s since 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez was fatally stabbed in a brawl in the parking lot on Tuesday (May 24). Two days after the incident, a lone police cruiser now sits near the spot where Hernandez was stabbed.

Video of the incident obtained by ALXnow revealed that police arrived at the scene before the stabbing occurred, no sirens were used and they struggled to break up the fight. There were about 30-50 Alexandria City High School students involved and no arrests have been made in connection to the incident.

Alexandria Police told ALXnow that they are not investigating their response to the incident and sirens were not used because they did not anticipate such a big brawl.

“We got a call for a fight, and we sent officers to a fight,” Alexandria Police spokesman Captain Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow. “When they got there, they realized how big the fight was, and they asked for more additional units. As the incident went on, more units were requested and sirens started coming in as the need was a priority.”

Lunchtime and after-school are reliably busy periods at the restaurant, and staff said that fights between students are frequent. One person was injured in a fight there last year and a juvenile was shot last September.

“Fights happen all the time in here,” a McDonald’s staffer said. “It’s bad.”

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe for Hernandez has so far raised more than $17,000.

Alexandria City High School sent students home after the incident and transitioned to virtual learning for the rest of the week.

ACPS leadership will also take these days to prepare for in-person learning to resume at all ACHS campuses with enhancements to the security posture on Tues., May 31, 2022,” ACHS principal Peter Balas wrote in an email. “We have made some adjustments to the high school day for the remainder of the school year to support student movement throughout the building to include a staggered dismissal at 3:15 p.m., a refined lunch block and class transition process.”

The incident occurred while students were taking their Standards of Learning tests. It was not a full school day and large groups of children were walking between both ACHS campuses.

This year the school implemented a new Lunch and Learn policy, where four separate lunch periods were converted to a single 74-minute-long lunch period where students don’t have to eat in the cafeteria.

“If there are any needs or concerns about how a student is coping, students or families should reach out to their school counselor via email, through Canvas, or by calling the school at 703-824-6800,” Balas wrote.

Hernandez’s death marks the city’s third homicide of 2022 after a murder in the Foxchase neighborhood and a teenager killed in an alleged attempted carjacking in Potomac Yard earlier this month.

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Police at the Bradlee Shopping Center where and 18-year-old was stabbed and killed on May 24 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria Police are working overtime to conduct high visibility patrols at school zones in the city.

The increased coverage is in response to Tuesday’s fatal stabbing of a 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez. in the McDonald’s parking lot of the Bradlee Shopping Center — which is in walking distance from Alexandria City High School’s two campuses.

No arrests have yet been made in connection to Tuesday’s incident, and police could provide no other updates.

“Currently, we have officers working overtime to conduct high visibility patrols at various Alexandria city school zones throughout the city,” Alexandria Police spokesman Marcel Bassett told ALXnow. “We’re just consistently evaluating to see if we need more, what we can do to improve, and then we’re building on our relationships we have with the Alexandria City Public Schools.”

ACHS is the largest high school in Virginia. More than 4,000 students attend the school, and the McDonald’s at Bradlee is a popular lunch and after school spot for students.

A juvenile was shot at the McDonald’s last September, and another juvenile was arrested after a man was injured in a fight in the restaurant last October.

The Arlington County Police Department is also increasing patrols around school zones, according to ARLnow.

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(Updated 5/26/22) A teenager from Alexandria City High School was killed during a “large fight” at the Bradlee Shopping Center McDonald’s, police say.

According to scanner traffic, the incident started around 12:21 p.m. with a call about a brawl happening at the McDonald’s at 3646 King Street. Police said one person was stabbed and critically injured, then pronounced dead at the hospital.

“We responded to a large group fight in the 3600 block and King Street,” said Alexandria police spokesman Captain Courtney Ballantine. “During the fight, an 18-year-old was critically injured and transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased. We confirmed it was a male and we confirmed that it was an ACHS student. We do not have any suspect information. It’s still ongoing.”

In a message this evening, ACHS Principal Peter Balas told the school community the student killed was senior Luis Mejia Hernandez.

Today is a day of great sadness at Alexandria City High School (ACHS). I am saddened to share with you the news of the passing of one of our Titan seniors from the Class of 2022, Luis Mejia Hernandez. Luis died today, May 24, 2022 and he will be greatly missed by the Titan community, especially in the International Academy.

Today, the administrative and support teams met with teachers and staff who work with Luis. In addition, the administration met with all ACHS staff at the end of the school day to discuss the incidents of the day. On behalf of the entire Titan staff, I would like to express our deepest condolences and sympathies to Luis’ family and loved ones. Luis will be deeply missed, and will always and forever be a Titan.

Balas said that ACHS will have an asynchronous virtual learning day tomorrow (Wednesday).

“Transitioning to virtual learning for our students tomorrow will allow our school community the time and space to grieve and process this loss,” Balas said. “We will have support team members from the schools, Department of Student Services & Equity and the City’s Department of Community and Human Services available on site for anyone who needs that support.”

Hernandez’s death marks the city’s third homicide of 2022. A teenager was killed in an attempted carjacking in Potomac Yard earlier this month.

Police said around 30-50 people were involved in the fight outside the McDonald’s.

“So many people were involved we’re still trying to weave through the video and witnesses to determine what we’re looking at,” Ballantine said. “What we’re looking at is 30-50 people.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Escobar at 703-746-6819. Callers can remain anonymous.

The Bradlee McDonald’s has seen its share of fights before, with one person injured in a fight there last year and a juvenile shot last September.

The nearby Alexandria City High School campuses were placed in “secure the building” status and later had a staggered dismissal as a result of the incident.

According to ACPS:

Due to an ongoing police investigation of an incident off campus, the secure the building status at the King Street and Minnie Howard Campuses of Alexandria City High School (ACHS) will not be lifted until 3:15 p.m. this afternoon, May 24, 2022. This decision is being made out of an abundance of caution for the safety and security of our students and staff. Please refrain from coming to pick up your students prior to 3:15 p.m. Families who pick up their students from school at the regular time should expect delays.

In addition, we will be conducting a staggered afternoon dismissal of students today starting at 3:15 p.m. This means that students will be dismissed in smaller groups and led by staff to exit the school building. Please expect delays and note that students may get home from school later than usual. All after-school activities are also canceled and ACHS students are expected  to go home immediately after dismissal.

The safety and security of our students and staff is the most important priority. Thank you for your partnership and patience while we focus on getting students and staff out of the building in a safe and timely manner.

We will continue to communicate to provide families with the most up-to-date information.

Alexandria’s DASH network also tweeted that buses would temporarily not be running to the Bradlee Shopping Center.

James Cullum contributed to this story

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A 16-year-old male was beaten up and robbed by a gang of five teenagers in the Bradlee Shopping Center on (Thursday) April 28, according to Alexandria Police.

The victim was jumped and robbed of cash by a gang of five male juveniles. The incident occurred at around 3 p.m. as the victim walked on the sidewalk between 3672 and 3676 King Street in the shopping center, according to police.

“Money was taken from the victim, but due to a witness intervening the money was recovered at the scene,” Alexandria Police spokesman Marcel Bassett said.

The incident follows the September 21, 2021, shooting of a juvenile at a nearby McDonald’s, which is a short distance from Alexandria City High School. A juvenile was arrested at the restaurant a month later after a fight where a man was injured.

No arrests have been made, and the relationship between the victim and suspects is uncertain, police said.

Anyone with information on the robbery is urged to call the Alexandria Police Department at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

Via Google Maps

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Beeliner Diner at 3648 King Street. (Courtesy photo)

Two Alexandria restaurant groups have been nominated as the top performers in their industry as part of the 40th annual Rammy Awards.

The Bun Papa pop-up, which is located in the Beeliner Diner at the Bradlee Shopping Center, is nominated for outstanding pop-up concept. This is their second nomination in a row since being nominated as the region’s best pop-up spot.

It’s also the second year in a row that the Neighborhood Restaurant Group has been nominated, although this year the nomination goes to NRG’s Michael Babin for restaurateur of the year. The company, which owns 19 local eateries, was awarded a Rammy last year for the most impressive pandemic pivot to provisions or market.

Public voting for the eventual winners begins this month, and the awards will be presented in a gala at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on July 24.

Bun Papa owner Markos Panas is asking that his customers rally for his pop-up with their votes.

“It’s an honor already to be nominated as a business, and we want to bring this thing forward with the support of all Alexandria and take home the win for everybody,” Panas said.

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Noelie Rickey and Markos Panas have been busier than bees lately, and on Thursday (Feb. 24) their Beeliner Diner officially opened in the Bradlee Shopping Center.

The new family restaurant at 3648 King Street is the former longtime home to Atlantis Pizzeria & Restaurant, which closed early last year. Rickey, Panas and partner Dagmawi Abedje also own the Bread & Water Company bakery in the Belle View Shopping Center. They opened a Bun Papa pop-up at the King Street location in November, and the space has been expanded to include the BeeStreet Virtual Food Hall, which is a collection of pop-up concepts ALX Pizza, Boom Chicky (fried chicken) and Bun Papa.

Rickey was raised in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, where there was the original Beeliner Diner.

“It was one of those places where you could go where they were very accepting and tolerant of everybody,” Rickey said. “I just grew up loving the place because it was pure diner food. They closed years and years ago, and I just always loved the name and I loved the vibe of the place, which was so welcoming.”

The 5,000-square-foot restaurant holds 130 seats, including 38 at the milkshake bar.

Panas said that the multiple concepts for the restaurant were the result of the pandemic, as they were forced to shut down a location at the Torpedo Factory Art Center and stop selling wholesale baked goods to local businesses. Their Bun Papa concept also expanded with a location in Capital One Arena.

“Things are moving along incredibly, and we had to scale back a lot,” Panas said. “We’re no longer doing wholesale, we’re no longer doing any farmer’s markets, and those were huge components of our business.”

Panas and Rickey opened Bread & Water Company  in 2013 in the Belle View Shopping Center, and had a serious shakeup after a six-alarm fire destroyed neighboring businesses in October 2019.

“The fire and the pandemic completely changed how we were going to do business moving forward,” Rickey said. “And now we have a full house. Everybody looks really happy, and I’m thinking maybe we’re just ready for this sort of thing at this point. Obviously the staff are wearing masks, but I think this is what people are ready for. People are ready to be together again.”

Courtesy photos

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